The U.S. Navy’s newest Electronic Attack Aircraft, the Boeing EA-18G Growler arrived at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island on June 3 2008. The event marks the beginning of the long awaited transition to the Growler from the Vietnam-era EA-6B Prowler. Upon acceptance of this aircraft by CVWP it will be used by VAQ-129 to train their flight crews to ensure they can proficiently train the remaining squadrons. The first deploying squadron to receive the Growler will be VAQ-132, in 2009. Secretary of Navy, Honorable Donald Winter describes the Growler as representing “a quantum advance in warfare capability in the electronic domain.”
As a more advanced and user-friendly aircraft, the Growler will only require two-man flight crews vice four for the Prowler. In the EA-6B, a pilot, navigator, and two electronic countermeasures officers were needed. The improved capability of the Growler requires less manpower, with only a pilot and an electronic warfare officer for in-flight missions.
“I’ve flown it, and I can tell you that both the naval flight officer in the back seat and the naval aviator in the front are going to be busy with their new responsibilities. There’s going to be more information than you could possibly imagine at your fingertips,” says Capt. Bradley Russell, commodore of Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CVWP). “This is a big, fast, highly maneuverable jet that’s going to give you total situational awareness to the battle-space out there. I tell you this: you’re going to love your new office; however, let me caution you, crawl before you walk and walk before you run.” The Navy has placed an order of 85 Growler aircraft, five aircraft will be attached to each of the 10 deploying Electronic Attack Squadrons (VAQ). 12 aircraft are anticipated at the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), VAQ-129.